3 SEO Deal Killers You Need To Fix Right Now
David Portney Aug 28 2012
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
-Proverb attributed to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, if you can believe Wikipedia
When the world wide interwebs came along, I was instantly intrigued. That was largely because when I was a (gullible) little kid I thought there was a book called “The Everything Book” that contained the secrets to everything; like how to fly, be invisible – you know, cool stuff. (In case you’re wondering, now I’m a gullible adult).
So the very concept that there was this place you could go and find the answers to e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g got my attention quick. Silly me: in short order my fascination led me to make a hobby of creating websites. Very, very crappy websites. (In case you’re wondering, I can still make crappy websites).
What’s All This Drivel Got To Do With SEO Deal Killers?
I’m getting to that. Geez, so impatient…
Flash forward some years later and I get this crazy idea in my head: “Hey, if I learn how this thingy called Search Engine Optimization works, I’ll be able to get my websites to rank #1 for whatever… I’ll put stuff up there for sale, and pretty soon I’ll be seaside sipping drinks from coconut shells with umbrellas sticking out of them and lighting cigars with $100 bills!” (In case you’re wondering, I still get crazy ideas in my head).
I figured SEO was some kind of magic fairy dust – you know, a bunch of insider-secrets and tricks that if I could just find out what they were, I’d be rich! Rich I tell ya! I’ll drive a Ferrari to the old neighborhood and thumb my nose at those who picked me last for kickball in 3rd grade. Ha!
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Getting Rich Quick…
If you have a website, I’m sure you created it with good intentions. *cough*like me*cough*
But seriously: for those of you who have a website, especially a business or even an enterprise-level site, and are looking to “do some SEO to it”, run – don’t walk – to your website right now and see if it’s guilty of any of these 3 SEO deal killers.
If it is, fix ‘em – and fast.
1. There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…
Why you should care:
This is called a “canonicalization problem” in SEO (and has nothing to do with the Roman Church) and you should care for two main reasons:
1. You’re presenting 4 identical pages to search engines like Google and saying “pick a card, any card!” Even though search engine spiders like googlebot that crawl and index websites are pretty smart these days, these robots need all the help they can get and you don’t want to confuse them. Give them just one home page to crawl and index.
2. External links to your site are like votes. If you were running for president, you’d want all the votes for you to be counted, correct? Having more than one home page means your “votes” are probably not all being counted up correctly and that voting power is being diluted instead of concentrated. You want that power concentrated.
What you should do:
Try entering your site into the address bar of your favorite browser with http://yoursite.com and http://www.yoursite.com – watch the address closely, and if your site loads at both addresses, you need to fix that immediately. You should also click on every link on your site that says “home” and watch the address bar. You might be surprised by what you find. Have an assistant stand by with smelling salts just in case.
2. Don’t go breakin’ my…. internal links
If you have links on your site that lead to a “404” page not found error, you need to fix that.
Why you should care:
1. Broken links are frustrating to your site visitors. They hate them with a burning passion hotter than 1,000 suns. You run the risk of breaking their trust. After all, if your site doesn’t even work right, then what happens if they <gasp!> buy something or do business with you! Will your customer service suck too? Will you take their money and run? Seems like a small thing, those broken links, but they’re not. Web surfers are notoriously impatient and judgmental.
2. Crudely put, broken internal links impede the proper flow of PageRank on your site and that page may be linked-to from external websites and you’re effectively killing any incoming “votes” to that page. Not good. Frankenstein’s monster would say “Grrr. broken links bad!”
What you should do:
You can use a free tool like Xenu or Screaming Frog SEO Spider (Google it) to check for broken links on your site. Internally here at Portent, we use a highly-specialized super-sophisticated tool we custom-built called “Pythia” (don’t ask) to crawl your website – we’ll find not only internal broken links but all manner of SEO deal killers on your site. For now, you can use one of the free tools I mentioned. Shameless plug: when I need a plumber, I call an expert to get the job done right the first time and don’t waste my time trying to do it myself. If you need an SEO… ’nuff said.
After you crawl your site and find all those nasty broken links you didn’t even know you had, fix them! Fix them now!
3. Who says titles don’t matter?
Because I said so. Just kidding. You should care because <title> tags are a very strong indication to a search engine like Google what that page is about. Robots need our help, remember? Also, <title> tags are the “blue link” in search engine results pages – that is, when you search for “purple elephant end tables” in Google and you look through the results, title tags are the text with blue links. Humans see them. Search engines see them. If your home page <title> tag says “Home,” that’s not very descriptive to humans or robots.
What you should do:
Click around your site and look at the top of your screen at the very top of your browser, you’ll see the <title> tag there. If you’re adventurous, visit a page and right click and choose “view page source” and look for <title> in the HTML code – read the words between the opening title tag <title> and the closing title tag </title>. Does it succinctly (in 70 characters or less – including spaces) and accurately (if you read this on a blank sheet of paper, would it make sense all by itself?) describe this page?
If not, it’s back to the drawing board for you. Yes, <title> tags are that important.
Too long? Didn’t read?
Summary for the skimmers:
1. Fix your canonicalization problem(s)
2. Fix your broken internal links
3. Fix your <title> tags
SEO deal killers are like your website shooting itself in the foot. That’s bad, by the way. Go get ‘em fixed! Oh, and if you have any questions or comments about these 3 deal killers, feel free to add that to the comments section below.
Lastly, I (or one of the other SEO experts here) would be happy to check out your site out for you, find out what’s wrong with it, and then write up and deliver a complete report of 10 things you need to fix right now. You may have SEO deal killers on your site or other things that badly need to be fixed & improved, like, yesterday!
I’m David Portney, an SEO Strategist and Analytics Geek here at Portent, Inc. Yes, I’m very into SEO & Analytics but let’s call it a passion and not an obsession, okay? Find me on Twitter @dportney. I enjoy public speaking very much so feel free to contact me if you’d like me to speak at your event. Read More